"So I say, "Live and let live." That's my motto. "Live and let live." Anyone who can't go along with that take him outside and shoot the … … … . It's a simple philosophy, but it always worked in our family." ~ George Carlin
The phrase live and let live has its origins, possibly, in Charles Dickens' Bleak House, possibly back to Christmastime sometime during World War I, possibly all the way back to Petrarch - "Vos vestros servate, mehos mihi linquite mores." It has been variously defined as allowing others to go on with their lives (societal), allowing an enemy force to proceed unscathed, albeit temporarily (military) or perhaps even a lame attempt at deriving some sort of Universal acceptance of and divorce from those with whom we disagree. [Petrarch's words may be loosely translated as, "You cling to your own ways and leave mine to me."]
Modern interpretations are often accompanied with a shrug of the shoulders. It is a passive-aggressive disassociation with whomever we disagree and would rather leave behind.
We are in essence saying, "I'm done with this person, I sever ties, good luck with YOUR life."
Live and let live is an expression I shudder to hear as much as the dreaded You know I love him to death.
Similar to its cousin, the proclamation of loving anyone to DEATH is most often followed by the qualifying word, BUT.
But, as I often do, I digress.
The Great War soldiers in the trenches of France and Belgium knew the true meaning of live and let live. There were truces at Christmastime that are well known, perhaps not to the extent that inter-army soccer games broke out in the scorched fields between the trench lines, but there are stories told of both sides hearing faint choruses of familiar and shared carols across no man's land in the predawn holiday silence. The phrase had serious meaning in World War I. Each side cherished a few hours where life reigned supreme. This was a temporary reprieve, as all truces are. There was, however, no real trust in these holiday ententes. There was nothing lasting in the live and let live doctrine.
There is nothing lasting in the current interpretation of the phrase either. What has happened in today's definition is a morphing of the phrase into a meaning that encourages isolation and exclusion. The first word, live, has totally lost any effect, any meaning. Live and let live has become more of an attitude than a message for enduring catastrophic conditions or failed relationships.
Is any phrase accompanied by a shrug, or a word such as BUT worth our attention? Are live and let live or I love her to death thoughtful, honest, insightful, necessary and kind?
As parents of addicts we often find ourselves in trenches, many we have dug ourselves with painstaking attention to everything but our recovery. We can if we want fashion our own phrase, a mantra for self preservation, for permanence and lasting ties to those we love while we focus on what is truly important - our journey.
Let's take the aphorism apart to emphasize two steps integral to our recovery starting with the word live.
Let's face it, we're not under fire, we're not in the trenches, we are not facing mustard gas or being showered by the hailstorm of the German MG08 machine gun.
All the same, our lives are at stake.
Just as we've learned to heed our internal commander's call to "move or die," there is another self-evident truth we must follow as parents of children who have fallen into addiction.
It's so simple it seems insulting.
We have a choice. We can choose to live, or to die.
So we can take the turn of phrase originally turned in the early 1300s or 1900s on its ear a bit.
Live, THEN let live.
Living our lives sends a multitude of messages throughout the Universe. Living our lives sends a message first to our selves, our hearts, our souls, our inner spirit that we've not given up, we've not abandoned life. We take a metaphorical athletic stance. We're ready for anything. We rejuvenate!
Living our lives sends a message to the Universe that we are ready and willing to embark or continue on our recovery journey. Living our lives leads to wonders and challenges we would never have imagined prior to our decision to experience the possibilities.
Yet this is the causality dilemma of recovery.
Does the act of living life however disjointed or aimless begin our recovery? Does beginning our recovery launch us along the journey of once again living our lives?
It can make your head explode.
But does it matter?
The message that at least one of us has not given in to the siren song of Addiction will be felt throughout the Universe. There is a path laid out for us out by the Great Creator we can no longer dismiss.
Live … then … let our children suffer their failures, and experience with joyful and tearful eyes, their victories.
It is the greatest gift we can bestow upon our boys, our girls.
It is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.
"Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children as the unlived life of the parent." C. G. Jung